Boris Johnson Doesn’t Think The UK Is A Racist Country
Boris Johnson, the man who historically described Muslim women as looking like ‘letterboxes’ and said black people have ‘watermelon smiles’, doesn’t believe the UK is a racist country.
His comments arrived amid ongoing Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the UK and worldwide, with hundreds of thousands of people protesting against racial injustice following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
Yesterday, June 7, protesters in Bristol pulled down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston before throwing it into the harbour, something the prime minister sees as a ‘criminal act’ that should be investigated by police, according to Johnson’s official spokesperson.
The prime minister’s view, according to the spokesperson, is that there is a ‘democratic process’ that should be followed throughout the UK. ‘In this country we settle our differences democratically and if people wanted the removal of the statue there are democratic routes which can be followed,’ he said, as The Guardian reports.
The spokesperson went on to avoid questions about whether Johnson wanted the statue to be put back up, while also refusing to say whether the statue should have been removed, democratically or not, in the first place.
The spokesperson also proved to be unclear on Johnson’s stance on statues honouring other people involved in the slave trade, refusing to say whether the prime minister thought they should remain or be removed.
Thankfully, we were given some answers. When asked if Johnson agrees with protesters who have described the UK as a racist country, the spokesperson responded with an emphatic, ‘No’.
The prime minister doesn’t doubt that there continues to be discrimination and racism, but he would not agree that this is a racist country.
We have made significant progress on this issue but there remains more to do and we will not be complacent in our efforts to stamp out racism and discrimination where it happens.
The problem with this statement, of course, is that it assumes a white man – and one who has been accused of racism on numerous occasions, at that – has the authority to say whether or not this is a racist country.
If we look at the evidence – that our country was built on the back of slavery and colonisation, and when we eventually abolished slavery in 1833, the government passed a bill granting compensation to the former slave owners for the loss of their ‘property’ – we start to see a very different picture.
While abhorrent, this is admittedly racism seen through a historic lens, and leads many to believe it is an issue of the past; it happened years ago, and therefore doesn’t apply to the here and now. That couldn’t be further from the truth though, with systemic racism still a major issue in the UK.
Systemic racism, which includes the policies and practices entrenched in established institutions that result in the exclusion or promotion of certain groups, prevents black people from getting the same opportunities as their white counterparts, and it happens every single day.
For example, in a recent interview with Sky News, Matt Hancock avoided answering how many black people there are in the prime minster’s cabinet. The answer, as pointed out by Munroe Bergdorf on social media, is none.
Not a single black person sits on the cabinet alongside the Health Secretary, and yet Hancock would have us believe the two cabinets he’s been in with the prime minister are the ‘two most diverse cabinets [he’s] ever sat in’.
The question I ask is this: how can it possibly be the most diverse cabinet you’ve sat in when not a single black person sits on it with you? This isn’t an isolated incident, either. A recent report by INvolve found there are more chief executives called Steve than there are from an ethnic minority in the FTSE 100, the 100 largest companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.
Not only that, but more than half of FTSE 100 companies have no minority ethnic group board members and only around 3% of the most powerful, prominent 1,000 people in Britain are from minority ethnic groups, according to the research.
When you take into account that the term ‘minority ethnic groups’ applies not only to black people but to any group of people who differ in race or colour – or in national, religious or cultural origin – from the majority population, it becomes clear just how little representation these communities have in such companies and elsewhere.
It’s situations like this that prove just how much improvement is needed in the UK, and how education on the topic of racism – both overt and systemic – needs to be significantly improved. But hey, as long as the prime minister doesn’t think we’re a racist country, I guess that’s okay.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk
CreditsThe Guardian and 2 others